Curiosity, NASA's Mars rover, has discovered there is water in the soil today, about a year after finding evidence of ancient water flows on the Martian surface.
NASA now reports that the robotic super rover found water molecules bound to fine-grained soil particles. The molecules accounted for about 2% of the particles' weight at the site where Curiosity landed in August, 2012.
Scientists now believe water probably can be found in soil all around Mars, NASA said.
"The fine-grain component of the soil has a similar composition to the dust distributed all around Mars, and now we know more about its hydration and composition than ever before," said Pierre-Yves Meslin of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie in Toulouse, France, in a statement.
Meslin was the lead author of a report about Curiosity's laser instrument results.
Curiosity is more than half-way through its initial two-year mission to find evidence that Mars does, or has in the past, been able to sustain life, even if in microbial form.
The discovery of water, a key element of life, existing today on the planet, and not just thousands of years ago is significant, scientists say.
In September of 2012, less than two months after landing, Curiosity sent back evidence of a "vigorous" thousand-year water flow on the surface of Mars.
Just last week, though, NASA announced that Curiosity had not found a trace of methane in the Martian atmosphere, decreasing the odds that there is life on the planet.
The rover has been running tests to search for traces of methane in the Martian atmosphere and, so far, has come up empty. Microbes on Earth produce methane. If there's no methane, there's a big possibility there is no life.
NASA will continue to search for types of microbes that don't produce methane.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about emerging technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.